POLITICAL indifference, ignorance, and a leadership vacuum in
Whitehall mean that Britain, which once led the way in abolishing
slavery, is now a "shameful shadow" of its former self, as the
trade makes a comeback, a new report says.
It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight
modern slavery, by the Centre for Social Justice, castigates
those involved, from government ministers to social workers, for a
"shocking" failure to prevent the spread of modern slavery in the
UK, leading to sexual exploitation and the forced labour of people
trafficked from overseas and within the UK.
The report says that the current approach to eradicating modern
slavery is fundamentally wrong. Instead of aiding victims, it says,
the system simply prosecutes many of them for immigration
The investigation examined more than 1000 cases of exploitation
of foreign and UK adults and children in agriculture, on building
sites, and factories, brothels, and homes. It concluded that
official figures were just "a pale reflection of the true size of
The Centre's managing director, Christian Guy, said: "We have
been shocked by many of our findings. A leadership vacuum at the
heart of Westminster; a messy legislative framework; frontline
professionals - however well-meaning and brilliant in some areas -
forced to swim against a tide of indifference if they wanted to
fight this crime; official bodies failing in their duty of care,
with little idea about the scale of the problem.
"Our research has uncovered a shocking underworld in which
children and adults. . . have been forced into lives of utter
degradation. Yet the authorities are either failing to understand
the nature of this abuse, or turning a blind eye to its
The chief executive of the anti-trafficking charity Unseen,
Andrew Wallis, who worked on the report, said: "We simply cannot be
satisfied with our current efforts to prevent this vile trade from
happening. We have allowed human beings in the UK to be bought and
sold as mere commodities for profit, gain, or gratification. How on
earth have we arrived at a place where there is no ambition or
leadership to stamp out this appalling crime?"
The report makes more than 80 recommendations, and demands new
anti-slavery laws, requiring companies with annual turnovers of
more than £100 million to disclose publicly what efforts they make
to ensure that their business practices are free from slavery.
The report also seeks to challenge the idea that trafficking is
an international crime that affects mainly women and children. Of
the 2077 potential victims identified by the UK Human Trafficking
Centre in 2011, 40 per cent were men.
The Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, told the BBC: "The
overall system we've set up is good. . . This is a crime that tends
to be hidden, and we want to be sure people are more aware of it,
and that people are more effective in dealing with the victims of
it, and more effective in locking up the people engaged in this